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Thursday, March 30, 2017

Havok - Conformicide

Artist: Havok
Release Title: Conformicide
Year: 2017
Label: Century Media Records
Genre: Retro Thrash Metal
1. F.P.C.
2. Hang 'Em High
3. Dogmaniacal
4. Intention to Deceive
5. Ingsoc
6. Masterplan
7. Peace Is in Pieces
8. Claiming Certainty
9. Wake Up
10. Circling the Drain
11. String Break
12. Slaughtered (Pantera cover)

Trying to lead the charge for the genre, Colorado thrashers Havok have been at the forefront of the revivalist scene since their formation a decade ago as they set out to carry the ideals and intensity of their forefathers to the current trend of thrashers. With the addition of new bassist Nick Schendzielos to replace Mike Leon, the group springs forth it’s fourth full-length effort March 10, 2017 on new-label Century Media Records.

Much like their previous efforts, this one tends to dwell incredibly heavily in the realm of worshipping the old-school classics of the genre with a more modern touch. The riffing here is a direct touch on the original forms of the genre, from the raucous high-energy affairs that bring along the tight, rapid paces they follow through, and with the blistering rhythms carried along quite nicely. With these in fine array throughout here already, the album’s penchant for slowing down into a crushing mid-tempo style brings about a nice variety to really balance out the furious and intense blasters throughout here, and with the album as a whole carrying on between these distinct styles as it ranges from the furious, massive thrashers to the spindly, mid-range grooves there’s a nice degree of separation and distinction to the tracks that can be found here. That said, the album generally doesn’t come off as intense or sharp as it could when it’s not focused on the rousing thrash-work featured and staying more on those mid-tempo efforts here as they’re simply dry, mechanical and meandering far more than they really should be. It could be due to these making the album feeling more stretched out than it really should, but whenever the album isn’t bringing the speed and ferocity the song dips as a whole whether it’s the whole track or just a snippet. That is somewhat disappointing but considering the fact that it’s vicious far more often than not it’s not terribly crippling as is expected.

While it’s not as vicious and hard-hitting as expected due to the rather disappointing nature of it’s less ferocious material, the fact that the majority of the album tends to remain nicely on point in regards to its rather frantic energies makes this a solid choice for all revivalist thrash fanatics or fans of the previous work in general.

Score: 84/100

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Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Saille - Gnosis

Artist: Saille
Release Title: Gnosis
Year: 2017
Label: Code666 Records
Genre: Symphonic Black Metal
1. Benei ha'Elohim
2. Pandaemonium Gathers
3. Blôt 04:44
4. Genesis 11; 1-9
5. Before the Crawling Chaos
6. Prometheus
7. Thou, My Maker
8. Magnum Opus
9. 1904 Era Vulgaris

Continuing their mark into ever-more expansive realms, Belgium symphonic black metallers Saille have taken the mold of their former mastermind Dries Gaerdelen into utilizing these darker, more intense settings the way the band initially sounded on their earlier efforts. With Dries stepping down to focus on the bookings, the newly-christened five-piece version offers their fourth full-length effort March 13, 2017 on Code666 Records.

Despite the loss of a prominent figure, the band still retains a quite competent and effective showing of their trademarked brand of material. This is effectively bombastic symphonic-styled black metal, full of ravenous up-tempo tremolo-picked rhythms with plenty of explosive, over-the-top symphonics which generate those furious paces throughout here. The riffing is still pretty much the support here, offering that specifically polished, crimson-accented riff-work with the full-on outbursts of melodic harmonies scattered throughout here to make for an intriguing mixture of bombastic and symphonic when mixed with the keyboards. Taking on the grandiosity of their past efforts by layering tons of frantic tinkering and virtuoso tendencies to add to the blistering riffing and blasting drum-work throughout here, and with the album featuring this work for a vast majority of the time it’s expressive and dynamic offering. This does end up with the rather frustrating part of letting the album segue into itself way too frequently here, making for a hard time to tell where you are with all the songs pretty much blending into a veritable sea of keyboards and brimstone-accented guitars for a large portion of the time. It doesn’t become all that detrimental due to the intensity and energy featured throughout here, but it does lower it somewhat.

While it’s not a highly original offering with the repetitious nature of so many of the tracks rendering this one into a bit of a blur at times, there’s still a lot to really like with this one in terms of enjoyable material here which makes this an easy selection for fans of their past work or symphonic black metal in general.

Score: 87/100

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Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Fabulous Desaster - Hang 'Em High

Artist: Fabulous Desaster
Release Title: Hang 'Em High
Year: 2016
Label: Self-Released/Independent
Genre: Retro Thrash Metal
1. Death Is Loud
2. Faster than Light
3. Warsaw
4. Thrash Bang Wallop
5. Midnight Fistfight
6. Wellness in Hell
7. R.I.P. (Rest in POWER)
8. Thrash Metal Symphony
9. Toxic Nuclear War
10. Customized

Formed just in 2010, German thrashers Fabulous Desaster have quite quickly run wild through the crowded thrash underground in their homeland by adopting the most direct and unflinching brand of retro thrash homage in the whole of the album. Now, seven years later the band is finally able to come together to produce their self-released debut album on November 19, 2016.

All factors considered here, it should be no surprise what kind of thrash is present throughout here with this one being wrapped so tightly in the 80s. This here is all built around the typical Bay Area-style crunch with the riff-work as the tight, controlled patterns are essentially mid-tempo chugging that was a hallmark of that scene, and appear as the main driving force of the album. When this one switches gears and goes for the frantic up-tempo charge, there’s a lot more to like here with the spindly rhythms and wild patterns kicking the energy up nicely in addition to the albums’ distinct crunch. These two combine together into creating a thick, vibrant burst of thrashing madness throughout here, and with the energetic tempos this contains even within the more mid-tempo sections it creates a rather fun and enjoyable effort although it does contain a rather prominent and noticeable flaw due to this set-up. There’s just no escaping the fact that this one is so devout and unyielding in its old-school influences that it really doesn’t offer up much in the way of original work here, running through the revival thrash playbook and keeping straight on with that style throughout here. That ends up leaving this one mostly mired in repetitious fashion around the same style rhythms and patterns as most others in this set-up, and it’s what really holds this back even though it’s not as detrimental as expected.

Despite having way too many issues of familiarity that strike so many of the revivalist scene thrash acts, there’s plenty of enjoyable elements peppered throughout this one that it will surely please any fan of revivalist thrash or those who specifically enjoy this crunchy Bay-Area style of thrash.

Score: 85/100

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Thursday, March 23, 2017

Immolation - Atonement

Artist: Immolation
Release Title: Atonement
Year: 2017
Label: Nuclear Blast Records
Genre: Old-School Death Metal
1. The Distorting Light
2. When the Jackals Come
3. Fostering the Divide
4. Rise the Heretics
5. Thrown to the Fire
6. Destructive Currents
7. Lower
8. Atonement
9. Above All
10. The Power of Gods
11. Epiphany

One of the genre’s biggest institutions, New York death metal legends Immolation have always had a defining and overwhelming influence on the scene with their dark, churning atmospheric take on the death metal scene that has earned them quite a deserved fan-base. Entering their third decade of active duty in any form, the groups’ tenth full-length effort was released February 24, 2017 on Nuclear Blast Records.

Coming through in fine fashion, the band wastes no time here displaying the prototypical dark and churning sound that’s typically associated with the band. Firing off that ever familiar sense of dark, blasting rhythms and churning, swampy riff-work that generate the kind of oppressive, heavy-handed atmosphere that the band is famous for, and when kept to a wide array of tempos and rhythm shifts the music comes off even more dynamic. That goes in conjunction with the atonal arrangements spread throughout here in adding another layer to the thick, murky atmosphere by changing up the tempo into more lethargic sprawling filled with these atypical squealing patterns that keep this one on such a varied offensive charge due to the ability of letting the thick, churning patterns generate another avenue of attack that keeps this one bristling with a plethora of dark and dingy rhythms. This attack is carried throughout here to such extremes that it’s entirety is taken up with this back-and-forth approach and the album maintains a viable engaging atmosphere due to this tactic. It really only makes this one feature one real flaw in that it’s still the same-old approach throughout here that the band has come to utilize, and there’s little new to be found in here that can’t be found in other efforts by them. That doesn’t make much of a difference for some, and it’s overwhelming power still holds this one up overall.

With such a large amount of positive work here and just so few flaws that many might not really care about, there’s quite a lot to like with the group who have released another stand-out offering that should greatly appeal to all fans of the bands’ past work and both death metal and old-school death in general.

Score: 96/100

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Gravebreaker - Sacrifice

Artist: Gravebreaker
Release Title: Sacrifice
Year: 2016
Label: Gates of Hell Records
Genre: Traditional Heavy Metal
1. Overdrive
2. Sacrifice
3. Gravebreaker
4. At the Gates of Hell
5. Violent City
6. Kill and Kill Again
7. Road War 2000
8. Pray for Death
9. Spellbound
10. Messenger of Death

Formed back in 2011, Swedish heavy metallers Gravebreaker has taken their time perfecting and honing a stylistic homage to the classic, blazing old-school heavy metal that makes up their overall approach as they’ve gone about building this love affair to the style. Finally, at the point of getting to their debut release, the power trio originally self-released the effort August 22, 2016 before a vinyl reissue December 16, 2016 on Gates of Hell Records.

Given their pedigree, the bands’ infectious approach to the genres’ old-school tendencies is given quite a prominent display on here. Graced with plenty of tight, chugging riffing swirling around the ravenous melodies driving along throughout the efforts, their mid-tempo charge lets the appropriately simplistic riff-work and clubbing drumming bounce along quite energetically to these rhythms in fine fashion. When they get balanced along by the addition of stellar keyboard melodies, this becomes all the more stylistically and enjoyably more 80s-inspired affairs building that classical level of melody alongside the generally metallic riffing that continually charges throughout here. There’s a few rather noticeable factors against this, though, which namely comes from the albums’ incredibly weak and punchless production which tends to hold this one down to nearly unlistenable levels. The guitars just lifelessly swirl around throughout the mix, getting lost in the rumbling bass-lines, battering drumming and high-pitched, gravelly vocals that drown out the riffing it comes off so light. Likewise, it tends to drain a lot of life from the album during the middle sections where it’s more mid-tempo cruisers in terms of tempo rather than just going for the most energetic and engaging efforts elsewhere, causing this to dip into some bland efforts during that section which holds it up. The fact that it’s so adept at homaging the past that it really doesn’t come off really original at all, and it’s obvious about it, which hold it down.

Despite filling itself up with some rather prominent and noticeable flaws, the fact that there’s some good stuff to enjoy about the reasonably energetic affairs here which does get a pass with this being a debut album that overall makes this one worthwhile only for the most devout fans of old-school classic metal genre only.

Score: 70/100

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Morta Skuld - Wounds Deeper Than Time

Artist: Morta Skuld
Release Title: Wounds Deeper Than Time
Year: 2017
Label: Peaceville Records
Genre: Old-School Death Metal
1. Breathe in the Black
2. Hating Life
3. My Weakness
4. Against the Origin
5. In Judgment
6. Wounds Deeper than Time
7. Scars Within
8. Devour the Chaos
9. Becoming One Flesh

Finally coming back into the fold, Wisconsin death metallers Morta Skuld have been toiling away in the underground ever since the beginning of their career and especially once they reformed several years back for a nice reunion that’s still on-going. With a new lineup with second guitarist Scott Willecke and bassist AJ joining the fold, the groups’ first post-comeback and fourth full-length overall effort was released February 17, 2017 on Peaceville Records.

Despite the long layoff, it’s quite clear the band hasn’t lost their step at all as there’s plenty of life left for the group to explore based on this one. Pumping out such classic-sounding material filled with plenty of charging mid-tempo riffing and pummeling rhythms that keeps the material tight, intense and straightforward much in the same way that they usually offered in the past, making for a slew of crunchy, highly-impressive efforts. Due to the chaotic nature of these efforts, there’s plenty to work with here once this manages to get the majority of the albums’ running time with these rhythms, so when it changes over into it’s more mid-tempo elements there’s a natural balance between the ravenous, crunchy patterns and more mid-tempo, straightforward work that still slogs through the same general intensity and savageness which is what makes for the more cohesive and engaging type of work throughout here. As this is all quite common and expected with the band, that they’re able to reproduce this type of influence and clarity in this day and age makes for quite an impactful time here as this one keeps their old-school tone intact here with a great deal of their changing tones that was quite apparent throughout their catalog. While that’s all good, there’s a decidedly more modern feel and tone in the production that sounds way too clean and processed for such an old-school vibe from the arrangements of the tracks, and that does stick out throughout here quite apparently rather than the murky old-school feel. Still, that’s the only thing really wrong here.

Filled with a lot of great moments and a few minor flaws with the more modernized sound, the fact remains that there’s quite a lot of highly-enjoyable work to be found here as the guys come back into the fold with a dynamic effort that will greatly please fans of their past work or old-school death in general.

Score: 93/100

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Thursday, March 16, 2017

Inquiring Blood - Morbid Creation

Artist: Inquiring Blood
Release Title: Morbid Creation
Year: 2016
Label: Kernkraftritter Records
Genre: Death Metal
1. Japanese Knife Assassin
2. Hell Commander
3. Death Row
4. Three Feet to Carnage
5. Death and Decay
6. Voices
7. Suffocation
8. The Horsekiller
9. The Swarm
10. Stabbed by Mirror Shards
11. Nuclear Massacre
12. Faceless

Offering their sound at it’s fullest, German death metallers Inquiring Blood have had their careers shaped mightily by their ravenous live assault that has brought their grooving brand of classic death metal inline with the scene giants of the past. With a six-year hiatus between releases, the quartet finally releases their sophomore full-length December 16, 2016 on new label Kernkraftritter Records.

Coming together with a furious assault, the band launches into their attack quite evidently as it’s immediately apparent they’ve not lost their touch in the half-decade silence. Filled with tight, churning groove-styled riff-work throughout here, the overall attack simply revels in simplistic mid-tempo rhythms that are straightforward and ravenous which creates a solid, cohesive sound to their attacks. When added together with a solid balance of melodic flurries and patterns, the album creates a rather reasonable atmosphere that comes off as a great fit to what’s being attempted here. Given that this leaves the material generally upbeat and lively, there’s a lot to really like about the style of attack this creates, although it does leave the album feeling quite one-note and simplistic for the vast majority of the time here. There’s very little deviation or dynamic qualities about the music within, regardless of the intensity or quality of the performances which makes for a rather troubling route here as this one tends to just go through the motions of its chosen style and not really offering anything to change it up and it can become highly monotonous as a result. That becomes much more prominent here as it goes along since this one really doesn't need to go for as long as it does here, as there's a few too many tracks for this kind of ultra-simplistic style doing the same thing to really make any sense for why it went that long. Still, this doesn’t really lower the album that much as it still gives this a lot to like overall.

While still somewhat troubled by its simplistic nature and overall attack, the fact that this one goes for quite a strong showcase of this rather one-note style does give this one enough to be able to overcome that enough to be a fine if unessential selection for death metal aficionados or fans of this simplistic style.

Score: 80/100

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Hyperion (Swe) - Seraphical Euphony

Artist: Hyperion (Swe)
Release Title: Seraphical Euphony
Year: 2016
Label: Black Lion Productions
Genre: Melodic Black/Death Metal
1. Remnants of the Fallen
2. Novus Ordo Seclorum
3. Flagellum Dei
4. Seraphical Euphony
5. Moral Evasion
6. Primal Cosmic Ascendancy
7. Zephyr of Grace
8. Empyrean Yearning
9. Blood of the Ancients

Formed in late 2007, the Swedish melodic black/death metal outfit utilizing Hyperion have always been quite adept at featuring their old-school black and metal influences carried through their ancestral country-mates that cultivated their sound in the early 90s. With the group rounded out to a sextet with the addition of third guitarist Joel Hagroth, this sophomore album was originally released February 6, 2016 on Black Lion Records.

Once the album gets going, it’s really easy to see where the band has taken its influences from as there’s a rather obvious attack surging throughout here. This one goes for a pronounced and distinctive element of striking tremolo-pitched riffing and deep, swirling chugging, giving this the atmospheric and blistering take founded in the early days of the genre where the sparkling melodic leads over the thumping patterns created a heavy and yet still highly melodic attack. Given that majority of the album utilizes these efforts to oftentimes epic stature here, it’s all nicely balanced out by the fine addition of more relaxed, charging mid-tempo paces which go for a streamlined, swirling tremolo attack and sterling keyboard work which carries this one along into the melodic realm rather than the faster, more frantic efforts which is quite appealing. This dueling approach gives it a fine mixture of both charging, fiery intensity as well as breath-taking melodic interjections featured alongside each other, and the end result is inherently dynamic and well-crafted material. This does result in several tracks where it really feels it’s length and the epic quality does run against it, though since it’s a rare occurrence this isn’t all too detrimental and doesn’t really hold this one back all that much.

Without a whole lot of really big, detrimental issues to be found here, the fact that this one comes out of the gate with such a strong, impressive attack makes this a worthwhile act to follow in the future and is heartily recommended for all fans of the old-school melodic black/death sound or melodic black metal in general.

Score: 92/100

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Cellador - Off the Grid

Artist: Cellador [audio and buy now]
Release Title: Off the Grid
Year: 2017
Label: Scarlet Records
Genre: Power/Thrash Metal
1. Sole Survivors
2. Break Heresy
3. Shadowfold
4. Wake Up the Tyrant
5. Off the Grid
6. Swallow Your Pride
7. Shimmering Status
8. Good Enough
9. This Means War
10. Running Riot

Tormented by an insanely-troubling past, Colorado-based power metallers Cellador have seen themselves beset by label and lineup turmoil that has stunted and very nearly halted the promise shown by their initially-appealing debut work just over a decade prior. Attempting to carry on with a new, solidified lineup, the long-awaited sophomore album was originally released March 10, 2017 on Scarlet Records.

Considering the long layoff, it’s entirely possible to forget what the band was about and to fix that the group manages to fly right out of the gate with what made them so promising in the first place. There’s plenty of tight, fast and frantic thrashing patterns laced with strong melodic accents flowing throughout here, generating the kind of explosive up-tempo power metal rhythms full of aggressive attacks in the rhythm. That goes hand-in-hand with a more stripped down, simplistic approach that generates plenty of fiery, engaging material without the long-winded and aimless approach of their past, streamlining the best tactics into a more substantial and cohesive style of attack that still brings out their best work in propelling plenty of speed and intensity out while displaying top-notch melodic interlaced together for a spectacular and energizing style. Though the epic approach to their past material gave them a somewhat more unique and individualized identity in the field during their initial appearance in the field, the fact is the intervening years and their stripped-down style has now come back against them as it’s turned them into a slightly rehashed and formulaic style without really doing much else about it, but being not only an engaging approach to the material and given the turmoil within the break it’s commendable to be this fiery and enjoyable all things considered.

Already a strong Comeback of the Year contender, this was quite a surprising tactical change in their style that now comes off like a condensed version of their style that will greatly appeal to fans of their original work or the curious to see how they’ve managed to hold up considering their troubles.

Score: 95/100

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Thursday, March 9, 2017

Fairytale - Battlestar Rising

Artist: Fairytale
Release Title: Battlestar Rising
Year: 2017
Label: Art Gates Records
Genre: Melodic Heavy/Power Metal
1. Face the Truth
2. Battlestar Rising
3. Cain
4. Man or Machine
5. Scar
6. The Weird & the Mad
7. Viper Pilots
8. New Caprica
9. Final Five
10. The Opera House
11. The Admiral's Speech
12. Colony (The Final Battle)

Heading deeper into the cosmos, German heavy/power metallers Fairytale have continued to propel their futuristic sound through a variety of strong, energetic work amongst the live scene that has supplanted their melodic sounds against the science fiction-heavy lyrics detail. Finally coming back into action after five years, the groups’ sophomore effort was released February 24, 2017 on Art Gates Records.

Furthering their sound into tighter, more mature realms, there’s still plenty of the bands’ familiar elements present here as this one utilizes those elements quite well. There’s plenty of stellar trademarked blend of fiery riffing and plenty of vibrant, energetic melodies coming out in full-force all wrapped together with the swirling power metal rhythms running throughout here which is quite an effective launching pad for this one. Utilizing these bright rhythms and melodies for the vast majority of the album manages to work incredibly well at keeping this one up-tempo and lively with the tight power metal chugging riff-structures keeping this one built around a highly engaging framework for tacking on the melodic outbursts that also are featured throughout here. When the band shifts away from this style, this opts for for a series of simplistic one-note chugging styles that show off their material in a less-than-enthusiastic outpouring that really doesn’t offer up much of an enjoyable setting since these are far more lethargic and plodding with the melodic lines straining to mesh with the similarly-plodding chug riffing alongside these rhythms and the whole affair seems to crash down during these times with the lack of energy. Likewise, that becomes even more of an issue with the overlong running order that features a few too many filler tracks to really stretch this one out, and it can lead to a somewhat draining experience when listened to as a whole. It’s still good enough even with these issues, though.

Although there are some minor issues to be had here, the fact that there’s still more than enough to really enjoy here makes this one quite a solid enough offering for die-hard fans of science fiction-themed power metal or this style of heavy/power metal while those that don’t appreciate such flaws should heed caution.

Score: 83/100

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Beyond Chronicles - Human Nation

Artist: Beyond Chronicles
Release Title: Human Nation
Year: 2016
Label: Self-Released/Independent (Doweet Records)
Genre: Melodic Death Metal
1. Ground Zero
2. Cold Vengeance
3. Last Transmission
4. Powerless
5. Upon Them
6. Not Scared to Die
7. Human Nation
8. The Best at Everything
9. Trebuchet
10. We'll March On
11. Beyond the Dark
12. Win by Blood

In existence since 2012, Paris-based melodic death metallers Beyond Chronicles have steadily risen to the point of allowing their influences to take place in bringing out the groups’ finest official release yet following their continuous stretch of live dates to hone their skills. Coming together in grand style, the first full-length album was released October 7, 2016 on Dooweet Records promotions.

Taking full advantage of their style, the group manages to exploit these elements together in fine fashion as they utilize their skills in rather decent offerings. Built around short, stuttering rhythms and a crunchy mid-tempo attack, there’s a generally solid attack featured throughout here that makes the generally one-dimensional material come to life. With the infusion of swirling melodic rhythms throughout the vast majority of the tracks as well as the inclusion of a stellar dynamic mixing together the hoarse shouts with the clean crooning, it all comes off with a fine light melodic touch that’s quite nicely in keeping with the general feel of the album. There’s little to be done, though, for how much of an impact the flaws have on this one as the material is quite light and one-dimensional sounding. It’s all based around the continued usage of a lightweight-sounding chugging series of mid-tempo riffs that keeps the energy level down into nearly achieving breakdowns in the middle of the tracks that really brings the whole quality of the second half of the album down. Likewise, the fact that this one really has quite a pronounced lack of variety where the songs blend together into so many similar set-ups which makes for a fine if much too familiar experience where the album really loses steam in second half as it becomes all too obvious that it has run through the playbook already and just offering up more of the same that highlights the fact that it’s much too long running-time-wise which highlights this factor much easier. Still, for a debut, it’s not entirely terrible.

While nowhere near an important release overall here, the fact that this is a debut and is to be expected that a learning curve si to be established for bands as they make their way in the scene is enough to levy this one somewhat into being really only for the most diehard and undiscriminating melodeath fan.

Score: 67/100

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Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Nukem - The Unholy Trinity

Artist: Nukem
Release Title: The Unholy Trinity
Year: 2016
Label: Sleaszy Rider Records
Genre: Retro Thrash Metal
1. WarWolf
2. Evelyn's Awakening
3. The Atomic Age
4. The Deceiver
5. BloodSeeker
6. T.V. Crimes (Black Sabbath cover)
7. D.O.I.
8. Lethal Injection
9. Lucida Sidera
10. Nukem All
11. Suspicious Minds (Elvis Presley cover)

Formed just in 2012, Southern California thrashers Nukem has been hitting it hard on the live front as the veteran group brings their seasoned experience to bear on their classic sound into a driving, honest thrash attack that showcases those elements quite fully. Finally making it to their first professional release, the groups’ debut effort was released September 16, 2016 on Sleaszy Rider Records.

Using their experience to the fullest, there’s an utterly ripping and devastating old-school charge throughout this one that makes for a thrilling experience. Frantically blasting away with reckless intention, the group immediately charges through a whirlwind of utterly tight and ferocious thrash rhythms that manages to include a flurry of Bay Area-inspired riff-work that focuses on all manner of tempos and patterns here. This one goes from raging full-throttle barnburners full of blistering drum work alongside the reckless riffing that packs in tons of wild chaotic soloing and frenzied rhythms, drops down into stuttering mid-tempo charges that still blitz along at a fine clip and then features solid melodic interludes spliced among its more engaging elements to leave this one with a respectful usage of older thrash songwriting structures which adds to the engaging appreciation for the old-school featured throughout here. The only thing that stumbles this one up slightly is the album’s inclusion of the two cover tracks which aren’t so bad taken out of context and enjoyed on their own, but the fact that they hold up the running time here to give the group less of a chance to make a mark is a slight disappointment given that there’s so much to like when they do make that impression. As well, there’s the little instrumental break that comes just before the album finishes up which is a rather odd placing and one that doesn’t seem to need to be there much less placed in that order in the album. Overall, though, these here aren’t in the slightest bit detrimental against the enjoyable elements present here.

With some minor issues and a boatload of surprisingly effective positives featured throughout here, this one offers up a rather interesting and impressive amount of good work here that will serve them well in their career and makes this a solid choice for fans of old-school thrash or revivalist fans in general.

Score: 94/100

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Freakings - Toxic End

Artist: Freakings
Release Title: Toxic End
Year: 2017
Label: Self-Released/Independent
Genre: Retro Thrash Metal
1. Hell on Earth
2. Future Vision
3. Violent Disaster
4. TxWxNxD
5. Toxic End
6. Friendly Fire
7. Brain Dead
8. Price of Freedom
9. Wave of Pain
10. Beer Attack
11. No More Excuses

Continuing to charge forward in their quest, Swiss thrashers Freakings have spent their existence wallowing in the belief that their honoring of the old-school gods of the genre will give them the necessary strength to forge a new path for themselves. Now finally able to make their most comprehensive take on the style, the power-trio prepares it’s third full-length effort self-released March 6, 2017.

Channeling their old-school heroes, it’s patently obvious throughout this one that there’s a major focus on them homaging the works of the past efforts in the genre. That gives this one plenty of incendiary thrashing riff-work full of frenzied, chaotic rhythms in short bursts of speed that makes for a fiery showing of old-school thrash worship. With the majority of these efforts going through blazing full-throttle tempos that exploit these wild and charging rhythms, the effort comes off even more like the old-school scene with these being given such a suitable background to propel these fiery, frantic rhythms pummeling along to the utterly pounding drumming and scorching soloing. For the most part, that leaves this with a lot to really like even though it does highlight a minor issue with this one in that the album’s short, frenzied attack doesn’t do much for the album as a whole. The tracks oftentimes have a tendency to blend together into a blend of ravenous thrashing that’s all in the same general tempo which can make for a great time although it comes off way too familiar way too quickly as there’s no variation or let-up at all. Given the frenzied energy and utter competence on display, this goes a long way towards overcoming that issue but it’s still prominent enough to be noticeable.

With a lot of rather impressive thrashing on display and only a few minor quibbles that for the most part do hold it back some but are not altogether detrimental, this comes off rather nicely for fans of the bands’ past works or ardent revivalist thrash fanatics although those looking for more originality in their thrash should heed caution at best.

Score: 82/100

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Monday, March 6, 2017

Wormhole - Genesis

Artist: Wormhole
Release Title: Genesis
Year: 2016
Label: Lacerated Enemy Records
Genre: Brutal/Slam Death Metal
1. Nurtured in a Poisoned Womb
2. Battle Logic Disrupted
3. Symbiotic Corpse Possession
4. Automated Distress Signal
5. Geoform 187
6. Gravity Manipulation Unit
7. Genesis Chamber
8. Existence Gap

Forged just in 2015, multinational brutal death metallers Wormhole have gathered an impressive roster of scene veterans together into a wholly technical, blistering compilation of all things brutal and heavy for one impressive and pummeling offering. Wasting no time unleashing their twisting, turning brand of attack, the group unleashes its full-length debut November 30, 2016 on Lacerated Enemy Records.

Given the stellar musicianship behind this one, it’s little surprise that this one manages to come across as brutal and pummeling as it does. It’s effortless how this can switch up from offering frenzied razor-wire churning riff-work filled with utterly dynamic, twisting technical patterns that are just as strong in concept as they are in execution when they’re bathed in these complex, challenging patterns that dominate the album. Coupled together with a more traditional series of churning riffing patterns as well as melodic accents alongside that stellar mixture of swirling technicality and a generous helping of ferocious slams within here, this one comes across with a more fully-formed and impressive mixture of brutal and technical elements than expected for a debut offering. Bringing out the mechanical technicality with the swarm of slams throughout this one makes for a thunderous, brutal offering which manages to work wonders for the atmosphere of this one, yet that also brings up the album’s one main detriment in that this one does manage to sound so clean and thunderous that it really loses a lot of its individuality in what’s going on in the album. There’s so much blasting and twisting, turning technical slamming featured here that it all comes off as rather routine and one-dimensional which really does hold this one down. Otherwise, there’s not much to dislike this one.

With some rather enjoyable elements throughout here and some minor flaws that strike this one down, this one is a rather nice and enjoyable debut effort that works nicely enough for fans of the members’ acts involved in this project or fans of the vicious, mechanical-sounding brutal death metal sound.

Score: 86/100

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Friday, March 3, 2017

Desecrate the Faith - Unholy Infestation

Artist: Desecrate the Faith
Release Title: Unholy Infestation
Year: 2017
Label: Comatose Music
Genre: Brutal Death Metal
1. Daemones Nos Ave Satanas
2. Predatory Impalement
3. Malignant Divinity
4. Shrine of Enmity
5. Unholy Infestation
6. Magna Daemonia
7. Ceremonial Invocation
8. Sacrilege Reborn
9. Angel Eater
10. Septic Womb
11. Ascension of Belial
12. Let Us Burn (The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit)

Getting their true sound unleashed, Texas-based death metallers Desecrate the Faith have brought a grand state of intense old-school elements into their sound that brings along unrelenting blasphemies and technical style riffs alongside merciless blast beats and putrid guttural vocals. With a three-year gap following their debut, the group’s sophomore effort was released March 3, 2017 on Comatose Records.

Getting into the main drive of the album, this one rather easily becomes a series of vicious and charging display of material that maintains it’s old-school leanings. There’s a propensity towards ferocious, deep churning riff-work and a sense of uncaged intensity that creates a whirlwind of dynamic rhythms through the fast-paced tempos. Bringing the intensity rather nicely with the ability to mix and match the furious rhythms alongside pounding drum-work and driving bass-lines, there’s an effectively massive and organic sound featured throughout here that serves the majority of the album exceptionally well. When it eases off from this charging atmosphere, it gets replaced with a stellar onslaught of mid-tempo chugging offset by complex challenging rhythms and technical riff-work that really creates the proper dynamic and intriguing work throughout here that makes for a truly engrossing and blistering approach that serves this one quite nicely. From the outset, this multifaceted approach works incredibly well at staging tight, intense and ferocious work that owes as much to the classic sense of the genre as well as the more brutal elements featured within here, and it makes for a wholly engrossing and engaging experience. It runs a tad too long for its own good as the album feels like a few songs could’ve been clipped slightly and not really lost much at all, but overall there’s still quite a lot of impressive work here.

Managing to focus on so many quality and impressive elements as this one does, it really generates the kind of multifaceted approach that comes from so many impressive features here that it manages to appeal to both fans of highly technical brutal death metal or brutality-laced classic death metal as well.

Score: 92/100

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Thursday, March 2, 2017

Mordant (Swe) - Demonic Satanic

Artist: Mordant (Swe)
Release Title: Demonic Satanic
Year: 2016
Label: To the Death Records
Genre: Black/Death Metal
1. Vengeance from the Dark
2. Devastating Storm... Evil Holocaust
3. Demonic Satanic
4. Evil Impalers
5. Blacking Metal (Sabbat cover)
6. Desecration from Hell
7. Infernal Curse of Evil
8. Screaming Souls
9. Count Lucifer

Still blazing in the underground, the long-running Swedish black/death metallers under the name Mordant continue to utilize the work on their country’s history and heritage in making this one of the most ferocious yet melodic albums in the scene. Finally coming back after a five-year break from releases, the group finally prepares it’s third full-length effort released November 30, 2016 on To the Death Records.

From the outset, the band manages to employ a quite adept and profound usage of old-school death and black metal into this one that’s incredibly appealing. As the vast majority of the tracks showcase, there’s quite a heavy usage of ferocious, brimstone-accented tremolo riffing that tracks through the fiery tempos and thrash-like energies commonly utilized which makes for some ripping, energetic efforts. The dirty thrashing style here comes across quite nicely with the album’s solid shifts into more traditionally-picked tremolo lead-work and straightforward rhythms that tackle the stylistic energies from the death metal scene. When these rhythms are featured alongside the brimming melodies and pounding rhythm section, there’s plenty to like with this one even though it does point out a rather small problem with this one in being so overly reliant on the old-school tone and mindset in how they organize their riffing that it really loses its identity. No matter how energetic or vibrant the material is, there’s always the sense that this has been done before and utilized to better effect as the short, compact writing does tend to take out some of the sting of these tracks to a somewhat more pronounced degree than expected. It’s not enough to totally lower this one but it does affect it enough.

Given that there are some minor flaws here even with a ton of rather impressive elements, this one becomes quite an enjoyable and impressive outing that will really appeal to the less discerning fans of old-school Swedish black/death metal or those that prioritize those enjoyable elements over its minor drawbacks.

Score: 89/100

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Haxxan - Loch Ness Rising

Artist: Haxxan
Release Title: Loch Ness Rising
Year: 2016
Label: Hells Headbangers Records
Genre: Old-School Black Metal
1. Loch Ness Rising
2. 93
3. A∴A∴ (Arcanum Arcanorum)
4. Babalon
5. Aiwass
6. Disciples of the Silent
7. Chemical Perversions
8. The Blackest Chasm
9. Beyond the Grace of God
10. The Aethyr

Formed in 2011, Ohio-based black metallers Haxxan came together from scene veteran Killjoy DeSade’s desire to offer a more traditionally-based old-school black metal attack that gets fleshed out into a stellar outlining of Aleister Crowley’s life. Bringing together a crop of fine musicians into a fully-fledged unit, the group prepares its full-length debut December 2, 2016 with a second vinyl pressing February 17, 2017 on Hell’s Headbanger Records.

Taking its cues back from the genre’s start, this here is quite an adept and wholly enjoyable offering taking on the simplistic nature of early black metal. This one is reliant much more on simple riffing chords and structures which take on the heavier aspects of the genre far more than they do the swirling tremolo-picked rhythms, featuring a heavy take on those plodding, doom-like sprawls than anything else. As well, the inclusion of fiery, more energetic rhythms compared to the swirling mid-tempo efforts throughout the rest of this one and offers a slightly more varied approach within here. This creates the feeling of plodding, oppressive doom with the simple patterns and riff-work that charges along quite nicely with the riffing coming along rather well with the use of ethereal, atmospheric keyboards to complete the picture in terms of generating the tight, churning atmosphere in this one. That the majority of these tracks are placed in the second half here is where this one falters somewhat, as despite the competence and professionalism of the performances of all involved the fact remains that this one doesn’t flow together smoothly in terms of running order, starting slowly and then building up to a cohesive if still odd pairing since it’s all joined together rather than spread out. Given that this is the main issue, there’s not a whole lot to dislike here.

Without a whole lot of really important flaws even if they are noticeable in the end, this one comes off rather nicely for a debut offering which is no surprise given the talent involved and makes this one quite a solid offering for those who follow the creative side involved or are fans of the more simplistic brand of old-school black metal.

Score: 86/100

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Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Overkill - The Grinding Wheel

Artist: Overkill
Release Title: The Grinding Wheel
Year: 2017
Label: Nuclear Blast Records
Genre: Old-School Thrash Metal
1. Mean Green Killing Machine
2. Goddamn Trouble
3. Our Finest Hour
4. Shine On
5. The Long Road
6. Let's All Go to Hades
7. Come Heavy
8. Red White and Blue
9. The Wheel
10. The Grinding Wheel

Remaining true to the old-school, New Jersey thrash legends Overkill have been at the helm of the scene since the early 80s without ever receiving the credit due for keeping the genre as big as it is as they’ve amassed a back-catalog that rivals anyone in the genre from start to finish. With a line-up firing at the top of their game, their celebrated nineteenth album was originally released February 10, 2017 on Nuclear Blast Records.

It should come as to no surprise what the band has been doing in their latest resurgence during the past decade, and for the most part that remains true of their latest release. An overwhelmingly vast amount of the material here comes off with a great sense reflection on their past employing their trademark swirling thrash riffing and pounding rhythms that once again displays their penchant for dynamic tempo shifts that makes the music far more interesting than most suspect. Elsewhere on the album, the band continues to explore their long-standing infusion of groove into their sound that keeps their straightforward sections as biting and intense as ever. Capable of carrying their swirling patterns and clanking rhythms into intense sections without relying on their raging speed-drenched paces that are a staple of their sound, it’s all quite familiar in the best way possible by carrying on a traditional feel of their own past rather than looking at anything else in the genre which makes the fiery, explosive material sound rich, dynamic and full of energy that thrashes and rages with the most explosive. Just to nitpick, the album doesn’t really feature the greatest production with the guitars sounding far too clean and lacking the bite that usually comes from their sound. However, this is again nitpicking as the album contains everyone necessary to be enjoyable.

A nearly-flawless release that has so much to really like about it, this might not be as important or influential as the bands’ past history might be but it is so good at what it does that it stands up as an upper-tier inclusion in their style and makes for another worthy piece to their collection or just metal fans in general.

Score: 98/100

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Aborted Fetus - The Art of Violent Torture

Artist: Aborted Fetus
Release Title: The Art of Violent Torture
Year: 2017
Label: Comatose Music
Genre: Brutal Death Metal
1. The Art of Pain
2. Boiled Alive
3. Hanged on the Hook by the Rib
4. Blinded by the Flame
5. Pouring Molten Lead into a Throat
6. Awaiting
7. Burning at Stake
8. Axe Decapitation
9. Buried Alive
10. Impalement
11. Breaking Wheel
12. Hanged and Quartered
13. The Last Way

Continuing to charge ahead with full force, Russian brutal death metallers Aborted Fetus have brought their ugly, pummeling brand of old-school and brutal death sounds into a rampaging force that highlights one of the finest collections of brutality in the scene. With a five-year gap between releases, the group finally releases its fourth true full-length effort April 28, 2017 on Comatose Music.

Once this gets started, it becomes obvious that there’s yet another dynamic stand-out offering of tight, rapid brutal death metal on display here. The vast majority of tracks display rabid, feverish riffing full of deep, churning razorwire riffing that’s kept to a locked-tight, controlled onslaught that handles a nice variety of material. Ranging from churning chugs to mid-tempo grooves and even unleashing a few slams and more traditional structures into the proceedings, this manages to unleash a rather frantic burst of material while setting up the more deep, guttural-sounding cuts elsewhere on here. These range from slow, sprawling sections full of blastbeats and more straightforward churning riffing that offers far more stagnant and start/stop patterns into the rhythms to offer a  complete brutal outlook even if the album as a whole does have a few minor issues spring up from this outcome. The main issue here is the utter lack of ability to distinguish what’s going on for long stretches of the album with the inability to really tell what track is playing as the band doesn’t really distinguish itself all that often. The fact that the tracks are all roughly the same length is a big part of that as there’s very little chance for the album to really bring a lot of disparate elements to separate the album a little better. Likewise, the need for three barely minute-long interludes is a little unnecessary as they split up the pacing too much and really doesn’t need that many breaks in an album this short. Otherwise, there’s a lot to like here with its frenetic approach.

Featuring a lot of rather enjoyable elements that bring out some really great brutal moments here, there’s not a whole lot really wrong here beyond the lack of identity in the tracks so there’s enough to work with here for fans of the bands’ previous work or simply brutal death metal in general.

Score: 83/100